In the jaws of fear
A Canby girl steps in front of a pit bull eyeing her sisters and pays the price in pain, blood and emotional scars
Thirteen-year-old Cheyenne Johnson is recovering from the bites that a pit bull left in her leg last Saturday. Those wounds (pictured) required 20 stitches and have left her, according to her parents, “traumatized.” Cheyenne’s sisters, Brianna and Tiffany, drew the dog’s interest first, but according to her sister, Cheyenne jumped in front of the dog to save her sisters. The dog latched onto Cheyenne’s leg and dragged her off her bike.
By Peggy Savage
A 40-pound pit bull mauled a 13-year-old Canby girl Saturday while she was riding her bicycle near her home, leaving the girl with multiple bite wounds to her leg.
The girl, Cheyenne Johnson, suffered three deep punctures and a 4 cm gash on her right calf after the dog, unprovoked, lunged at her and dragged her off her bicycle near Lark and Bolland Roads. The girl was attacked while trying to protect her younger sister from the dog, witnesses said.
Cheyenne was taken to Willamette Falls Hospital in Oregon City following the attack, where she was treated and released.
Doctors used 20 stitches to close the wounds, said the girl’s father, Clark Johnson.
“Cheyenne is extremely traumatized, to the point we are having to make a decision whether to get rid of our own dogs,” Johnson said. “She’s terrified of being bit again.”
At about 5 p.m., Cheyenne and her two younger sisters were riding bikes near their Laurel Road home when they stopped to chat with a 14-year-old neighbor girl who was walking the pit bull, said Diana Hallmark, Clackamas County Dog Services supervisor.
According to witnesses, the dog started barking and approached the Johnson sisters, Cheyenne, Tiffany, 11 and Brianna, 9. Seconds later, the dog lunged at Cheyenne, latching on to her leg, and yanking her off her bicycle.
Tiffany said the dog was originally targeting her, but her big sister protected her.
“I saw the dog coming at me and I froze, but Cheyenne moved between the dog and me, and the dog bit her instead of me,” Tiffany said. “Cheyenne was protecting me. It happened so fast.”
Tiffany said the girls were unable to get the dog to let go of Cheyenne’s leg. She said the dog’s 14-year-old handler began hitting and kicking the dog, in an attempt to pull it away, but the girl could not get the dog under control.
“She tried to pull it off with its leash,” nine-year-old Brianna said. “She didn’t know what to do.”
The pit bull, a black and white 4-year-old female called Hennesy, has been impounded at the Clackamas County animal shelter while dog control officers investigate code violations, Hallmark said.
The injured girl’s parents did not report the Saturday incident to authorities until the shelter opened Monday morning. The Clackamas County Dog Services office is closed weekends.
The Johnson family called in the report at 9:53 Monday morning and an officer responded to the incident the same day, Hallmark said.
“Our officers did not respond to the incident when it happened,” Hallmark said Tuesday. “But yesterday an officer went to the home and spoke to the dog’s owner.”
When a Clackamas County animal control officer arrived at the home of Archie and Noni Wills to impound the dog, Noni Wills refused to relinquish the dog, Hallmark said.
She said the owners, who live at 26218 Laurel Road, had removed the dog from their property prior to officers arriving Monday and were keeping the dog at their son’s house in Canby.
Officer Carmen Hildebrand informed the owners they were required to take the dog to the Clackamas County shelter.
“The dog owner was given 24 hours and she brought the dog in this morning, 24 hours later,” Hallmark said. “The dog is here and is under a 10-day rabies observation. An officer is issuing a citation to the owners for a menacing dog.”
By law, any dog impounded for biting a person must be held for at least 10 days before redemption or destruction to determine if the dog is rabid.
Hildebrand said she issued the Wills a citation Monday for another dog that was unlicensed, but the investigation on Hennesy is ongoing. A brown pit bull and a dachshund were also at the house.
Noni Wills, Hennesy’s owner, claims she is being persecuted by both neighbors and officials.
“This is all because she’s a pit bull,” Willis said. “My dog is not vicious and she has not bitten anyone. The only time that she has bitten anyone is if she’s been tormented or is protecting someone.”
Wills, who has lived in the neighborhood five years, blamed the girls for the attack.
“As far as I’m concerned, they were antagonizing the dog by riding their bikes up and down that street,” she said. “They were my daughter’s friends, but I don’t want them down here — they have no right to be down here on this end of the street.”
Feelings ran high in the neighborhood following the incident.
Some residents complained Wednesday that the dog has been terrorizing the neighborhood.
Neighbor Holly Samuelson said she has witnessed “the dog’s aggression” towards kids on bikes as well as adults walking or driving cars.
“The dog throws itself towards them, snapping its teeth while the young girl walking it almost loses her grip,” Samuelson said. “I don’t blame the dog or that little girl. But the owners of this dog are uneducated about the needs of this breed.”
Samuelson was one of several residents who have filed statements with the Clackamas County Dog Services complaining about the dog. On her statement form she wrote, “I feel this dog is dangerous to the whole community.”
Residents noted that children ride bikes and play up and down the street.
“It’s a good neighborhood and we all try to watch out for each other’s kids,” Samuelson said Wednesday. “We don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”
The Wills’ front yard is enclosed by a three-foot-high chain link fence that neighbors say Hennesy easily jumps over to escape the yard.
“The dog has bitten my son, but he was fast enough to just end up with torn jeans,” Johnson said. “About the same time, a 9-year-old neighbor girl was knocked off her bike by the dog.”
County law states that considerations for disposing of a menacing or biting dog depend on a number of factors, including the dog’s behavior before the attack, and the ability and inclination of the keeper to prevent the dog from chasing or menacing another person while off the dog owner’s property.
Noni Wills said she is confident the county will return Hennesy to her once the 10-day impound has ended.
“I’m getting my dog back,” Wills said. “The fence is a little higher in the back yard so I’m going to set up a spot for her there.”
If you follow the link you'll see they included a full color picture of the bite....on the front page! Now granted the bite is serious...but frankly we see much worse.
I hate newspapers that editorilize and attribute comments to me that never crossed my lips...
The powers that be..were ready to try to get a warrant to bring the dog back to the shelter to hold for hearing in a menacing cates...a warrant really..I can't get warrants in situations of neglect and abuse..but you're going to get one to bring a dog back that hasn't committed any new violation???? Really???